Tinkerable Terrariums

Three terrariums hung from a pegboard
Potato plants growing from a giant Mr Potato Head

Budding idea

To help celebrate the coming of spring and the botanical nature of Canberra’s local Floriade event, I have been developing tinkerable terrariums and ecosystems activities for The Shed. Based on a simple plastic cup terrarium with a lid. I came up with three different designs suitable for using with large and small sized plastic containers:

  1. Two cups stacked on top of each other, with soil placed in the bottom
  2. A cup turned upside-down with soil in the lid rather than the bottom of a cup
  3. One cup braced in the lid lying on an angle with a latch on top for easy access

We created some impromptu funnels out of paper to get soil through the small entrance and cut odd shapes out of plastic for a latch. The little plants started growing well in under two weeks! The water evaporating, condensing and falling over the plants has created a miniature water cycle!

Growing further

Another activity was a contained ecosystem. I cut the tops off two bottles, one about half way down the bottle and the other about a third of the way down. I poured some water into the remaining base of one bottle. Then, I drilled a hole through a   bottle lid and threaded some water absorbent rope through, so that it reached the base with the water in it. I put some soil and seeds into the upside-down top and sealed the other top onto it using some tape. This has created a contained miniature ecosystem with its own water and nutrient cycles.

The grass seeds they have been growing great in the three weeks since planting! You can really see the water cycle in action inside the bottle.

Together with some other Questacon staff, we came up with other interesting and quirky terrarium designs. These include a terrarium on-top of a terrarium, planting some seed potatoes into a large Mr Potato Head, and pots in pots. It was great to see what creative ideas both our staff and our visitors come up with when we brought this into The Shed.

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